In a tragic scene that seems pulled from a bad Lifetime movie, a young illegal immigrant has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after committing a felony DUI that led to the death of a Catholic nun and severely injured two others.
Late last week, 24-year-old Carlos A. Martinelly-Montano was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a drunk driving accident that occurred in August 2010, according to the Washington Post. The sentencing took place at the Prince William County Courthouse in Mannassas, Virginia.
Sources indicate that Martinelly-Montano had already been convicted of felony murder charges during a trial in October, and had been awaiting news of his sentence for several months.
According to the police report, Martinelly-Montano was driving drunk when he steered his Subaru into a guardrail and then swerved into the opposite lane on a narrow, two-lane stretch of road in Bristow, Virginia.
When he veered into the wrong lane, he struck a blue Toyota Corolla that belonged to three nuns who were members of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia. The nuns were traveling from Richmond to Bristow for an annual retreat.
The tragic accident led to the death of Sister Denise Mosier. In addition, Sisters Charlotte Lange and Connie Ruth Lipton, both of whom are in their 70s, were badly injured in the wreck.
The high-profile case drew attention not only for the tragic identity of its victims, but also the legal history of the perpetrator.
According to sources, Martinelly-Montano, who was originally from Bolivia, had previously been arrested twice for other drunk driving charges. In addition, before the fatal accident, federal authorities had scheduled a deportation hearing with Martinelly-Montano.
Alas, Martinelly-Montano was not deported, although he claims that his time in jail and the death he caused have led him to “dedicate himself to God.” This journey towards a new faith may have been aided by the injured nuns, who apparently have shown him forgiveness.
Despite this forgiveness, though, Martinelly-Montano must deal with the legal consequences of his actions. At trial, he pled guilty to five different charges, including involuntary manslaughter, driving on a revoked license, getting a third DUI offense in five years, and two counts of maiming while driving under the influence.
All told, the charges carry a maximum sentence of 70 years in prison, which has led some critics to suggest that the judge’s sentence of 20 years was too lenient for Martinally-Montano.
Elderly drivers are not often viewed as drunk driving threats, but this common perception was recently proved flawed when an 83-year-old drunk driver in California struck and killed a man riding on a Segway.
According to Patch.com, Dick Chappell, a resident of Los Gatos, California, was booked into the Santa Clara County jail this past weekend after he drove his car into a Segway-riding man on a crosswalk.
Sources indicate that the incident took place early Sunday evening. Chappell was driving his 1991 Lexus SUV, and apparently ran a red light. When he crossed the intersection, Chappell struck 72-year-old Marschelle Syverson, a resident of San Jose.
Syverson did not die immediately from his injuries. He survived until he reached the San Jose Regional Medical Center, where he later passed away.
While police have not yet released information about the Chappell’s level of intoxication, it seems safe to guess that his blood alcohol content was above the legal limit.
Arresting officers determine that Chappell was probably inebriated when the interviewed him at the scene of the crime. Police also indicate that Chappell was in a state of shock after the fatal accident.
After his arrest, police charged Chappell with several counts, including driving under the influence of alcohol, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and a felony DUI.
While the incident may have been prevented if Chappell had been driving sober, it also raises interesting questions about the safety of Segway devices, which were once hailed as the future of transportation but have had a hard time gaining traction in the consumer market.
At first glance, it would seem that a person riding a Segway across a crosswalk would be more visible than a simple pedestrian. Thus, the Segway might be more easily seen by a speeding driver.
On the other hand, people operating Segway devices, particularly riders who are inexperienced, may not have a firm grasp on their maneuverability. So, when a Segway rider is in danger, he or she may not be able to respond quickly.
This, of course, is all speculation, as it is not clear whether Syverson was an experienced Segway operator. In addition, Syverson’s ability to maneuver the device in a quick fashion is not really relevant because he had the right-of-way while crossing a crosswalk.
Nevertheless, the incident does raise questions about a pedestrian’s safety while operating a Segway.
In addition, the incident shines a light on an under-appreciated aspect of DUI arrests. While DUI arrests disproportionately strike younger drivers, elderly drivers may still be capable of getting behind the wheel while they are drunk.
And, when octogenarian drive drunk, they may be further harming their already compromised reflexes. If you have a grandparent or an elderly friend who drives after drinking alcohol, remind them of the potentially fatal consequences of drunk driving.
According to WTVH, 70 year-old Charles Hartmann took a detour on his way home September 27. A little before 8pm on Saturday, Hartmann drove his car through his neighbor’s house in Hastings, NY.
He drove through the front of the house, through the living room, into the bedroom and out the back. The total damage is estimated at $50,000.
Hartmann was arrested and charged with felony DUI, reckless driving and others. Luckily, no one was hurt. The owner of the house had stepped out of her bed when she heard the car enter the house.
Police reported that when the tow truck removed the car, the bed was underneath it.
An Elgin, Ill. teenager was acquitted of murder after driving his car into a building while drunk. Brian Poliarny was charged with first-degree murder for the crash which killed his passenger, Roman Pokorny. A second passenger was badly injured in the accident.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Kane County prosecutors had argued that Poliarny had intentionally driven into the building in an attempt to kill himself. Judge Grant Wegner said he acquitted Poliarny of the murder charge because there wasn’t clear evidence the teen had intended to kill himself or his passengers.
Poliarny had already pled guilty to two counts of felony DUI. He faces a maximum 26-year sentence on these charges.